Getting better, but the book didn't really hit its stride until it was half
over. I liked the plot, and I really enjoyed the way Obi-Wan's character
developed during the second half.
The plot of this book came about naturally enough. I thought it was a
bit convenient that their ship had an emergency landing on the Phindian
homeworld, where Obi-Wan's friend Guerra (from The
Dark Rival) lived. But there was a hint
when Qui-Gon mentioned Guerra's name in a disparaging way, with a jolt of the
ship, that I was sure the Pilot knew him. Of course, the Pilot ended up
being Paxxi, Guerra's brother.
After the Jedi find their way into the town, and observe the zombie-like
Phindians, they know that something is wrong. When they see the
elegantly dressed Phindians speed by, they know that these people must be in
charge. They meet up with Paxxi and Guerra again, and are chased out of
their cantina by guards. At every step of the way, the two Jedi were
drawn in deeper. They had no choice but to go with the flow.
I thought Guerra was cute in Dark Rival, for the little time that we saw
him, but here, he was even better. I was surprised that his "Not
so! I lie!" didn't get annoying, it was used to often. It
actually became funny at points, especially when Qui-Gon had to put up with it
for so long. I wonder if it's a Phindian thing, or if this is just a
family trait, for his whole family said something like it. In any case,
because the Phindians lied so often, information was divulged little by
little, at a slow and convenient rate. This makes it less of a simple
plot convenience, as it was in Starfighters of
Adumar, where it was divulged
slowly because of a stupid pretense that the author decided to use.
The two Jedi seemed to be thrown into the plot. They were always
reacting to things here, never acting, until near the very end. This is
fine for a short while, but it get tiring after a time. I hope they
start doing some acting of their own soon. They stage a raid on the
Syndicate main building, where they know the government keeps stockpiled all
the things that people need. They only distribute it to keep people
alive, never more than absolutely necessary. Hungry people are less
likely to be able to revolt. When a routine inspection of the vault
(emptied to a warehouse) stumbles upon them, the two Jedi react by killing all
the guards, and hiding the bodies, with no remorse whatsoever. When they reach the main vault, they
require an "anti-register" device that Paxxi created. But it
was stolen by the government, and is probably sitting in the
The turning point of the book comes when Obi-Wan is captured. The
raid into the warehouse goes well, and they recover the device, but the armor
coat that they stole has a tracking device in it, and people who are out of
their designated area are arrested. My main question here was what about
the other three coats? Why was only one registered as being in the wrong
place? That question is never even raised.
I absolutely loved Obi-Wan's memory wipe. Using the Force, he boxes
up his mind and awaits the procedure, similar enough to what happened to
Richard in Wizard's First Rule
for me to make the comparison. We get to follow his resolve all
the way, and he survives. The wiping process hit the right notes to
sound real, and Obi-Wan did all the right things. He was able to fake
the blank expression and the right emotions, to fool everybody. His
quick thinking in front of the man on Gala who wanted to kill him was
hilarious, and his escape from the recorder drone was also very well thought
out and well-staged.
For the Syndicate made a game out of their memory-wipes. They send
the memory-less people to other planets, with recorder drones following them,
and laugh at their problems. It seems a bit odd that Obi-Wan was sent to Gala,
where their mission was originally to go before they got sidetracked to their
On Gala, after he ditches the drone, Obi-Wan accidentally comes
face-to-face with Prince Beju, the evil man who wants to lead Gala. He
had caused a false Bacta shortage on his planet, and planned to be a hero by
bringing some back from Phindar. Obi-Wan tricks the guards, locks up the
young Prince, and takes his place. I wonder if Obi-Wan fell into the
role of an evil Prince too easily? Maybe he has a little bit of Dark
Side potential there... But as Spock said in the classic Star Trek
episode Mirror, Mirror, it is much
easier for a sane man to act crazy than it is for a crazy man to act sane.
When Qui-Gon finds out Obi-Wan was memory-wiped, he is nearly overcome with
grief. But as they observe the Prince landing, he recognizes Obi-Wan,
and uses the Force to find out that the boy is fine, if a little out of his
league. One of the leaders of Phindar (Terra, Guerra's sister, who was
memory wiped years ago) is killed when the other
finds the treasury empty, after Qui-Gon and the Phindians emptied it.
Each one thinks the other is a betrayer. Obi-Wan feels terrible about
that death, because he knows that Terra was essentially reprogrammed as a mean
But he has to keep the charade up, and he goes to the warehouse, where the
Phindian public is about to riot, after seeing so much in the way of goods
stored out of reach. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon help the Phindians get their
supplies, arrest their leader, Baftu, and remove the Bacta from Prince Beju's
plane. But the Prince escapes his bonds and takes off back to Gala,
where presumably we will meet up with him in the next book again.
The ending was a little simple-minded, but it was very exciting! If
only the beginning was this exciting, and some of the middle. If we
could get a good start, middle and then an exciting ending again, we would be
in great shape with this series! I did have a problem with all the names
of the people involved, however, and it appeared that the author had some
trouble keeping them straight, too! The names were too similar, either
ending with "a" or starting with "B", and being one or two
syllables. That's a minor complaint, but it made reading the last few
chapters a little more difficult.
It also seemed to me that the time scale in this book seemed a little out
of whack. I wondered how we got to Obi-Wan's birthday so quickly, when
we had so many weeks to go in the last book, and we seemed to pick up on the
same or the next day as that one ended. I suppose the time could have
been spent while Obi-Wan worked the undersea mined in the last book. But I was
confused about the history of the Syndicate. It is implied that they
have been around for a long time, because people remember what it was like
before the Syndicate. But Terra (Guerra's sister) was mind wiped when
she was very young. It may be nothing more than a misunderstanding on my
part, but the timeframe seemed to conflict depending on how long the author
needed to have it around.
I definitely didn't like the anti-register device. I don't like any
superweapon or super decoder that is necessary for the plot. Better for
Paxxi to have found the codes for the door to the treasury instead of having
to use this device. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are so concerned about the
device, that the Syndicate could become invincible, that it is yet another
Galactic Menace. But then they turn around and say that it cannot be
used on the headquarters of the Syndicate. Then it can't be that
powerful, can it?
I think the series is getting a little better. The last book was
underwhelming, but this was was pretty fun. It was still missing some
much-needed depth (yes, even in a young readers book), but it is coming
along. The contrivances, with the device, the inability of Qui-Gon to
even try and help after being told that the city was locked down, and
the weak and wandering beginning, are all relatively minor. And they got
out of the way of the plot very quickly once we got to an actual plot.
And, as I've already said, the ending was exciting, and I liked Obi-Wan's
impersonation of the Prince.
If we can keep up this level of interest, I'll be happy with the rest of
the series. For now, things seem to be on the upswing. This was a
decent outing, but I know we can do better!